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‘The Most Obscure Cult TV Shows Ever’ (review)

Written by Richard Irvin
Published by Bear Manor Media


Normally I’m a big fan of books like Richard Irvin’s The Most Obscure Cult TV Shows Ever: Profiles of Fifty Offbeat Comedies and Dramas, Unsold Pilots, and Unaired Series, but I’m sorry I have to make an exception for this one.

I suppose it may be my fault. It quickly becomes obvious that my definition of a cult show has little in common with Richard’s.

To me, an obscure cult TV show might be something like 1977’s Fantastic Journey starring Jared Martin and Roddy McDowall, 1994’s black superhero series, M.A.N.T.I.S. with Carl Lumbly, or He & She, the groundbreaking but quickly cancelled 1967 sitcom starring Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin.

Instead, Irvin has chosen to include series such as a short-lived Lou Gossett medical drama from 1978 called The Lazarus Syndrome; a Romeo & Juliet updating with a modern porn setting called Skins from 2003; and the Hugh Jackman-produced musical drama from 2007 called Viva Laughlin.

Obscure, yes. But that doesn’t make them cult shows. Sometimes shows just get cancelled because they really aren’t that good.

I do enjoy the author’s writing style and the way he goes all out, even on shows that really don’t seem to deserve such attention. There are even a couple chapters on shows with unsold pilots or some that didn’t make it to air at all.

There are, of course, a handful of series here that do meet my lofty, personal definition of a cult show. Wonderfalls! I loved Wonderfalls but it was cancelled after only four episodes. Luckily, the entire season was released on DVD soon afterwards. And I’d give you Bay City Blues, Beyond Westworld, and certainly Boris Karloff’s pre-Thriller thriller, The Veil—an entire series filmed in the 1950s but never released until the 1980s, I believe, on home video. Possibly on 8MM in the late ‘70s.

The Texas Wheelers is interesting because it starred future big names Mark Hamill and Gary Busey, but is there really a cult around it? The few episodes that have turned up online recently seem pretty dull. Me, I liked The Ugliest Girl in Town when it was new back in the late ‘60s and again more recently on YouTube. Obscure? Absolutely. Interesting to read about? Yep! But…

So, yeah. Tough for me to get past that. Richard’s intro details his thinking as far as defining and categorizing the shows herein. It even opens with a definition that more or less matches mine but then the book doesn’t seem to live up to that. I just kept thinking if he had just said, “Hey, here’s 50 obscure TV shows you probably never saw but might find interesting to read about,” although phrased better, of course.

As is, a mild diversion for TV buffs but doesn’t live up to its title, I’m afraid.


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